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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leno


Mark this one down in the history books, because it's never happened before, and it likely will never happen again. I'm about to priase Jay Leno.

Leno's final "Tonight" show was Friday night, and I was up to see it. You know, it really wasn't bad. The farewell wasn't overly self serving. It wasn't overly sappy, and it wasn't overly overly done. Think about it for a while. It'll eventually make sense.

Leno thanked all the people who stood by him in good times and bad. Believe me, you don't know who your friends are until you're in trouble. He also noted all the children born to staffers during his 17 years behind the "Tonight" show desk.

You have to give the guy credit. He worked his butt off. Leno was number one for most of his stint. He didn't take much vacation time. As noted earlier, people seem to like Leno and you can't manufacture that.

No one beats Carson, but even Carson fans will admit Johnny mailed it in for his last few years. There were too many guest hosts and too many "best of" shows.

Even Letterman has nights where it appears he'd rather be somewhere else.

You can't forget what NBC executives did to Leno. Five years ago, O'Brien's contract was up, and the network feared O'Brien jumping to the competition. NBC decided to give O'Brien the "Tonight" show, thinking Leno's popularity would be on the decline by 2009. The network guessed wrong. Even though I'm sure it was difficult, Leno remained a company man.

Jay Leno wasn't my choice for late night entertainment, but I do respect what he accomplished.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Weeks !!!


It seems like it would never get here, but the day all full powered TV stations are forced to turn off their analog transmitters is two weeks from today! I'm thrilled. No more crawls. No more announcements. By the way, don't blame us. All that stuff is mandated by the federal government.

While we're talking about TV, Jay Leno leaves the "Tonight" show tonight. Conan O'Brien takes over Monday. Leno gets a Monday through Friday 10:00 PM show in September. As noted earlier, I can't stand either one of these guys. I'm smart enough to realize both have been around a long time. Both have spent years as number one in their time slots, so obviously, they're well liked. You can't teach that. You can't bottle that. It's worth a ton of money.

I'm rarely up that late, but when I am, it's Letterman.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jon & Kate


There is a long list of topics I care nothing about. Something new has bolted to the top of the list.

Jon & Kate have a Discovery Channel show about their eight children. Apparently, there are some problems in the marriage. It's not just tabloid stuff. The network morning shows have done stories on it. It's all over cable, and it it just makes me sick.

I learned a long time ago that TV news should be a combination of things you need to know, and things you want to know. The customer, or the viewer is always right, but Jon & Kate should be so far off the radar, the Hubble space telescope should be pressed in to service to find it.

I'm sorry the couple is having problems. I'm even sorrier for the children. However, I don't want to see it on my television. Thank heaven for the off button.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Staycation


The summer vacation season is here, and the discussion starts anew.

"Staycation" was the big word of the summer of 2008. Gasoline prices were high. The economy was slipping. Staying home, or close to it was in vogue.

Fast forward one year. The economy, by most measurements, is in worse shape than it was one year ago. Gasoline costs less, but it's climbing.

The Allentown Morning Call newspaper did an unscientific web poll. 79 per cent of the people who responded say they will stay close to home this summer.

I do have a little time off this summer, and I did a web search for hotel rooms. I keep hearing how there are major bargains out there, but I haven't found any real deals. The prices look the same as last year, at least for the places I'm considering visiting.

Another "staycation" looks more than likely.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Heartbreakers


Answering the phone in the office is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. We do get our share of heartbreaking calls, and I took two over the weekend.

One was from the mother of a deceased cancer patient, who wanted to make a personal plea to the Minnesota woman hiding her son so he can avoid chemotherapy. She wanted the woman and her son to come out of hiding, and the son to get the treatment that will likely prolong his life.

I couldn't do it, and a lengthy explanation wasn't helping me get through to the caller. She hung up on me.

Another heartbreaking call came from a woman who was looking for her 16 year old daughter. This was the tenth time she'd run away from home. We don't get involved in these family situations unless police ask, and even then, police only ask when they feel the run away is in danger. I explained the station's policy. Again, the caller wasn't happy. My hands were tied. I didn't get a chance to say it, but once mother and daughter get together, a trip to a counselor can do more good than a television station ever can.

Then, there was my Memorial Day. It was a heartbreaking situation, but one where we could help, a little. A sign was dedicated in Peckville to two young people who died a week apart in 2007. Sergeant Jan Argonish was killed in Afghanistan. Danielle Faramelli was killed in a car crash.

Donations paid for the sign and a little landscaping. Volunteers did the work. Argonish's parents, and Faramelli's mother wanted to thank people for what they'd done. Argonish was 26 when he died. Faramelli was just 25. Both families were grateful their children will be remembered, that their short lives meant something.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself. I felt sorry for the callers, who were obviously going through difficult times.

I felt sorry for the families who lost children at such a young age.

Sometimes, life isn't fair.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day


Time spent with family and friends is important, and you should savor those moments...

But, please take at least a few minutes today to remember what Memorial Day is all about.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In the Rough


There's an interesting dilemma just north of the Pennsylvania border, in Corning, NY.

As noted earlier, I really like the Corning area. If you're looking for a weekend getaway, it's the place to be.

Anyway, the LPGA Corning Classic is underway this weekend. It's the 31st annual. It's the last.

Corning, Inc., the glass people, is dropping its sponsorship of the ladies' golf tournament.

Here's the dilemma. Is Corning, Inc. right to save that sponsorship money for its own business, and to keep its own people working?

Or, should Corning, Inc. continue to spend that money to sponsor the golf tournament, which brings people to the area, which helps the bars, the restaurants, the hotels, the gas stations, the mini marts, the stores, etc? The Elmira Star Gazette newspaper says the tournament pumps more than $16 million into the local economy.

The tournament is on TV, so people around the country could see the beauty of the Finger Lakes region. You can't buy advertising like that.

It's important to have a sound business. It's also important to be a good member of the community.

It's a tough call.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I've Been Meaning to Say...

Today, a few topics from the news recently that I should have tackled sooner.

Paul Grimes died last week at the age of 61. He worked at several local radio stations. I met Paul, briefly, when he was with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Mutual friends say Paul was a great guy. My sympathy to Paul's family and friends.

Tony Kornheiser has exited from ESPN's Monday Night Football booth. As noted earlier, I like Kornheiser-- a lot. Few do radio better. "Pardon the Interruption" is one of the best shows on television. However, Kornheiser shouldn't work Monday Night Football for the same reason I'm not on "Pennsylvania Outdoor Life." It's not a good fit. Other than a daily walk, I'm not an outdoorsman. Kornheiser was limited to quips, and that's not his thing. Some blogs and message boards speculate Kornheiser will be doing a radio show, somewhere, in the not too distant future. I look forward to it.

ESPN, and before that, ABC, tried to re-capture the 1970's Monday Night Football magic. You can't manufacture that. It doesn't come out of a bottle. It has to happen on its own. Repeated attempts have failed.

I was watching a CBS NFL game from the early 1980's on the NFL Network the other afternoon. It was just Pat Summerall and John Madden-- and it was more than enough. An entertaining color commentator and a solid play-by-play man-- it's all you need, and it will draw a crowd.

ESPN, please stop.

FOX Sports is supposed to start its playoff and World Series coverage before 8:00 PM this fall, and that's a good thing.

It's Memorial Day weekend. It seems like Christmas was yesterday.

Special thanks to the staff at Scranton's Robert Morris Elementary for their Tuesday morning hospitality.

I would occasionally encounter an elderly woman and her little dog while on my morning walk. The little dog, CoCo, recently passed away. The woman got another because she said it helps with occasional bouts of loneliness. I'm glad a dog has a new home. If you need a little friend, the shelters are full of them.

Congratulations to Magic 93's Frankie Warren, who finished first in WNEP's favorite DJ poll. Frankie is one of the good guys in the business.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vote 09


For the most part, voter turnout was low yesterday. That's disappointing. I'll spare you the lecture.

As for the results, well, here's my take on a few things.

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is usually a very confident man. I didn't smell it yesterday, and many people I spoke with hesitated to call the election. Most expected a rough ride, and no one would have been surprised if Gary DiBileo won. It turns out Doherty won, fairly easily.

What does it show? A party's endorsement is nice, but you can win without it. Doherty has a well organized and very loud group of detractors. They are not to be taken lightly. Doherty's people are a little quieter, and obviously, they made sure to get to the polls. A huge campaign war chest is important, and Doherty had a ton of money to spend. Chris Doherty likely becomes the city's first three term Democratic mayor since 1953.

Even in defeat, there's victory. It's possible the campaign was an eye opener in some fashion. Doherty found the areas where he's weak, and where people want more attention. That could force some changes in the next four years. On top of that, it will be interesting to see how much slack the mayor gets from council. Many council members are not in the Doherty camp.

I see where Luzerne County voter turnout was around 35 per cent, even with the home rule question and 17 judicial candidates on the ballot. I thought more people would want a say in the "new" county court structure.

I had no idea how the judicial race would turn out, but I thought Joe Sklarosky would do better. He spent a ton on advertising. The TV commercials were good. He has a well known father, and the son enjoys a good reputation.

Other than that, it's nice to see some political newcomers do well, all across our area. It's clear some of the old ideas aren't working as well as they should, even though experience is important.

Some fascinating races are shaping up for November. It should be a fun ride.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wonder



Above is a yellowed, old comic I keep in a desk drawer at home. I look at it often, and I really do hope I never lose my sense of wonder.

I often take long walks before sunrise. Clear mornings are the best, the mornings when you can see every star, every planet. I wonder how it all got there. I wonder how it all works.

In a lesser sense, I still have that sense of wonder on election day, even after all these years. My first election as a registered voter was 1980. I've worked just about every election day, in one way or another, since 1982. The process still fascinates me. The results are good for hours of reading and interpretation-- and wonder.

Vote if you can. It's important. If you can't, make sure you're registered for November.

And, never lose that sense of wonder.

Monday, May 18, 2009

www.trouble.com

I see where the Craig's List people have decided to dump their "adult services" ads. The move comes at the request of law enforcement, and after a Massachusetts man allegedly killed a "masseuse" he discovered through Craig's List.

On one hand, will this really help curb the problem? There are at least a half dozen other sites advertising the same wares as Craig's List. A few more have probably been formed to fill the void.

On the other hand, you have to start somewhere.

Scranton held its annual Armed Forces/Veterans Parade Saturday. I think that's great. You can't do enough for the men and women in uniform, and our veterans. The parade was, once again, sparsely attended. As I say every year at this time, there might be a better way to do the job-- like a day long display of military equipment and a concert on Courthouse Square or in Nay Aug Park. In spite of it all, congratulations to the people who organized it, and those who lined the streets to watch.

We have a better than average archive system here at the TV station, and I had to do a quick search involving some soldiers killed in the middle east. The list was longer than I realized. It's just a little something to think about as we head toward Memorial Day.

If you're in a position to offer some help, the American Red Cross can certainly use it. The organization has assisted dozens of fire victims in the Scranton area this year. You don't realize how important the Red Cross is, until you need it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chrysler


Bankruptcy, either financial or moral, gives you the cover for doing some cruel things.

Chrysler is getting rid of about 25 per cent of its 3,200 dealers. Some had been selling Chryslers for decades. They received letters yesterday, telling them they were out.

I do understand Chrysler is having some extremely difficult times. I read the opinions of experts, who feel natural market forces should determine who stays and who goes, rather than one swift blow of the axe. The process would be gradual rather than sudden.

We're in new territory here, so no one really knows who's right.

I do know it's sad.

The Chrysler star has lost a lot of its shine. It's not just a "dealer" affected here. It's everyone from the salesmen to the office people, to the people in the garage who get hurt, and hurt badly. And, let's not forget about their families.

The goal, of course, is to come out of this with a stronger American auto industry. Tell that to the people losing their jobs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Random Thursday


17 men and women are running for judge in Luzerne County on Tuesday. Just about every one has used "level the playing field" in their advertisements. I've just about had enough.

Maxim magazine is out with its annual "Hot 100" list. You know you're old when you don't recognize most of the names and faces.

I'm sorry the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are out of the playoffs. Still, it was a really good year.

Maybe I'll get to a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game this year. Same goes for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers.

The Baby Bombers have lost five in a row. Let's not panic. Everyone has a bad streak now and then.

A minor league baseball stadium in Camden, NJ now has a "peanut free" section for fans with peanut allergies. On the surface, this might sound silly. On the other hand, I'm lucky. Outside of a few pollen related sneezes, I have no allergies, so I can't relate to those who must avoid peanuts.

You know how internet rumors are. I saw one where Google was interested in the New York Times. I can imagine the culture clash that would take place there.

I still haven't caught Scranton's mayoral candidate debate in its entirety, but I have watched a few big chunks. There are a lot of races where all the candidates seem the same. Not this one. Not even close.

I visited a mega mart yesterday to get some potting soil. Dirt cheap? Not these days.

AAA reports more people will be on the road Memorial Day weekend due to lower gasoline prices. Maybe it will give the economy a boost. If you're traveling, please be careful.

I've been toying with changing the look of the blog, but I can't find a design that knocks my socks off.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Arson

I've covered a lot of crime over the years, and I don't think I'll ever understand why people set fires.

Two people were arrested in Columbia County yesterday-- people who should know better, people who've seen the horrible things fires can do. Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty, but police say they've confessed.

An elderly couple was badly hurt in one of the fires. Their granddaughter told me family members aren't sure if they will live or die.

The suspects are connected to a volunteer fire department. The vast, vast majority of volunteer firefighters are good and decent people who risk their lives, on a daily basis, for free.

Today's blog really has no point. It's just another sad crime case-- one that can't be explained, and one that shouldn't have happened.

I hope the elderly couple recovers. Even if they make it out of the hospital, their lives are forever changed, their home ruined.

If the suspects have a good explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm Sorry I Never Met You

Ann Nicholson of Exeter died in a Sunday night fire.

As I've noted in the past, I'm always amazed when people who've experienced horrible things are willing to go on camera. We talked with Ann's son, Jeff, Monday afternoon. There were some things he wanted us to know about his mom, pictures he wanted to share.

My heart broke for Jeff and his brothers-- to lose your mom in a fire, and on Mother's Day on top of that.

We heard nice things about Ann Nicholson all day, from her former tavern customers, from her neighbors, from her friends, and from her son.

I'm sorry for your loss.

When you do stories like this, you can't help but think of your own family. I've been blessed with a great set of parents and not a day goes by when I'm not thankful.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Funny

I thought President Obama was really funny at the Saturday night White House Correspondents' Association dinner.  Kudos to the writers.

On the other hand, he wasn't that funny.  Obama was all over television Saturday night and Sunday, even into Monday morning.  Did his remarks deserve that much play?  I think not.  On the other hand, it was a fairly slow news weekend.

It's always strange to see the president, any president, in a different environment.  That could be part of the fascination.

George Bernard Shaw said "Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard."  Some presidential events over the years made horrible attempts at humor.  Bad taste abounds.

At least, we made it through a spotlighted dinner without a major incident.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Finale


Regular blog readers know I'm a huge "Scrubs" fan, so I feel bound to pass along some thoughts on Wednesday night's final episode.

The series ended on a high note. JD resigns from Sacred Heart to take a job closer to his son. The best scene was close to the end, when JD walks down a hospital hallway, remembering all his patients and co-workers over the last eight years.

Note that he leaves the hospital alone. The series' theme song, "Superman" by Lazlo Bane has a line that says "I can't do this all on my own." JD leaves with the ability to do a lot of things on his own.

I had a minor quibble with the "flash forward" sequence. It was a tad long, but it was nice to see JD winds up with Elliot. The executive producer/head writer/creator had said it wasn't on his radar, but the show's fans wanted it.

There aren't many shows that can make you laugh, cry, and laugh again in the same half hour.

The show succeeded because it was real.

It was a great run.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bank On It


Thanks to direct deposit and ATM's, I rarely set foot in a bank. This week, two bank visits in three days.

The first, Monday morning at the bank you see above. It's the new Fidelity branch on South Main Avenue in Scranton. Fidelity provided the photo. It's an impressive building. The flooring is made of recycled material. Big windows let in the daylight and reduce the need for electricity. The roof reflects heat, rather than absorbing it.

Fidelity was being recognized for its green technology, but the real reason we were there was to talk with Sen. Casey about recent statements by Bishop Martino. The bishop feels Casey has been siding with pro choice forces in the senate, and we needed to hear what the senator had to say about it.

Fear not, Fidelity fans. We managed to weave the "green" recognition into our story.

My second visit was Wednesday afternoon. I dropped into the Steamtown Mall Pennstar branch to cash a small rebate check. That too, is an interesting branch. It resembles a coffee shop rather than a traditional bank.

Okay, I've taken several paragraphs to get to my point. I don't care what the bank looks like. Of course, it has to appear somewhat professional to inspire customer confidence. My main reasons for choosing a bank and branch is the ability to get me in-and-out quickly, and location.

While the newer bank branches are nice, it's the customer service that will inspire my loyalty.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Radio


The promos hit the air Monday night, so I guess it's safe to talk about it now.

I got a chance to do a couple stories I've wanted to do for a while now. Radio has always been an interest, even when I was a tyke. I admire those who can sit in a tiny, often windowless room, and be funny and entertaining day after day after day. It's not as easy as it looks, or sounds.

I narrowed it down to two: Frankie Warren at Magic 93, in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, and Gary Chrisman, who works at Kiss FM in Williamsport.

Frankie worked across the hall for a while when I was at WARM. I met Gary for the first time last week. Both are impressive people. Even though you listen to them every day, I think you'll enjoy getting a look at what you ordinarily don't get a chance to see.

The Warren profile airs at 6 pm Thursday. Chrisman's follows in our 7 pm broadcast.

There are a few other radio folks I'd like to visit. Good Lord willing, we'll get a chance to do those pieces down the road.

There are some things to keep in mind as you watch the stories. First, Warren and Chrisman make it look easy. It really isn't. Chrisman has some great interaction with his co-host Gail Bair. He's lucky to have some good chemistry with a co-worker.

These are not what you'd call "video rich" stories. It's people working in the tiny rooms that I mentioned earlier. Photographers Dave Jones and Tom Durant, and editor Steve Smallwood deserve a lot of credit for their creativity. Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Enough, Already !


I like my job. I am proud of my profession, and I'm never ashamed to tell people what I do for a living.

And then, there are times I feel we've really blown it.

Coverage of the swine flu has been awful. We've stopped informing people and have started scaring them. It is not our finest hour.

Yes, the latest information is presented in a rational fashion here at WNEP.com.

The cable networks, with all that time to fill, are engaging in speculation and they're not being responsible.

I have the perfect gift for some broadcast network reporters-- the ones who toss around words like "epidemic" and "pandemic." That gift is a dictionary. They apparently don't know the meaning of the words they use. Swine flu cases number in the hundreds. Reason for concern? Yes. Reason for panic? No.

This is a small outbreak. Nothing more. If you feel sick, stay home. If you feel really, really sick. See the doctor. There are drugs that can treat the illness.

How do I know we've frightened people needlessly? Hang around the newsroom for a while. Read the e-mail from an angry parent. She's upset her daughter went on a field trip to the airport. We all know airports are the breeding ground for every disease known to man. Listen to the phone call from the man afraid to leave his home. Stores can't keep enough hand sanitizer in stock. A simple handshake is viewed as a potentially lethal act.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Be rational. Think. Take reasonable precautions, and we'll all get through this.

You also might want to turn off the television for a while.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The End is Near!


I went through that big song and dance last week on cancelling credit cards. So, what shows up in my mail box Friday afternoon? A credit card offer!

It went right in the shredder.

Look at it like this. Credit card offers dried up last year when the economy went in the tank. One arriving in my mail box could be a sign the worst is over, and the economy is on the upswing. It came from a local bank, and I can't remember that bank sending me a credit card offer before, even though I maintain a small emergency savings account there.

Much to my surprise, the house passed a bill of rights for credit card holders last week. It's a bit too complicated to describe here. It's a start. Much more has to be done. The bill is on its way to the senate for consideration.

It's too bad it took a major recession for congressmen to get off their butts and do something consumer friendly.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Historic Bowman Field


We'll wrap up Bad Photography Weekend with a couple more photos of Monday's visit to Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport.

It appears to be a great place to watch a ball game. You're nice and close to the action, and it looks comfortable.

The photo above is the stands behind home plate. The one below is the view looking up the third base line, toward left field.

The home opener is Saturday, June 20.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bad Photography Weekend


I had an appointment for a news story set up for 8:00 AM Monday in Williamsport. I made sure to leave the office early so I would have the time to wander around Historic Bowman Field. I've passed by a few times over the years, but I never had a chance to take an up close look.

I won't give you a history lesson. It's all here, on a marker outside the stadium.

There was one problem. As I expected, the stadium is locked up at 7:30 in the morning. Fate intervened. Bill Gehron of the Crosscutters staff happened to be there early. He let me in to take a look, and I really appreciated it. This is the view from the field, right behind home plate. It's a beautiful park. A couple more Historic Bowman Field photos tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Williamsport


Trips to Williamsport are rare for me, so it was a pleasant change to have to head out there on assignment Monday morning.

I'll talk about the reason for the visit next week, but if you listen to the Chrisman morning show on Kiss 102.7 FM, you already know.

I really can't remember the last time I was in that part of our coverage area. A couple things stuck out-- how built up the area around the Lycoming Mall had become, and all the development around Penn College.

Like all my other trips to Williamsport, it didn't last long, and that's unfortunate. I did have a chance to take a few pictures, and I'll share them with you this weekend. Don't say you weren't warned.

Today's picture was taken from the Route 15 scenic overlook, just south of Williamsport, around 7:00 AM Monday.